Oregon State University research has uncovered the first fossil evidence of a rare botanical condition known as precocious germination in which Seeds sprout before leaving the fruit. In a paper published in Historical Biology, George Poinar Jr. of the Oregon State College of Science describes a pine cone, approximately 40 million years old, encased in Baltic amber from which several embryonic stems are emerging.
Poinar, an international expert in using plant and animal life forms preserved in amber to learn about the biology and ecology of the distant past that the crucial to the development of all plants, Seeds germination typically occurs in the ground after a Seeds has fallen. We associate viviparity – embryonic development while still inside the parent – with animals and forget that it sometimes occurs in plants.
Gymnosperms such as conifers produce “naked” or non-enclosed Seeds. Precocious germination in pine cones is so rare that only one naturally occurring example of this condition, from 1965, has been described in the scientific literature.